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PM’s own party threatening government

Published on 02/02/2004

2 February 2004

BRUSSELS – The Belgian Prime Minister’s own party has warned it could pull out of the country’s coalition government within a week, a move that could spell the end of Guy Verhofstadt’s second administration.

Karel De Gucht, the President of the Flemish Liberal Party (VLD), blames the government’s plans to give non-EU foreigners the right to vote in local elections for the crisis.

De Gucht says most rank and file members of his party oppose the plans and he warns that at a key conference this coming weekend they may order VLD ministers to quit the government over the issue.

“We are a democratic party and if the conference decides, we will be forced to quit the government,” De Gucht told state broadcaster RTBF over the weekend.

Verhofstadt has tried to calm the row by insisting De Gucht’s comments were over-interpreted. He told Le Soir newspaper that his fellow VLD member, “never meant to say that”.

The issue of foreigners voting rights is proving particularly sensitive in Flanders, where most VLD supporters as well as the far right Vlaams Blok oppose the government’s plans.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Belgian news